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Scottish Social Attitudes: Brexit is undermining support for Scotland staying in the UK

03 November 2020 | Tags: Scottish Social Attitudes, What Scotland Thinks, Scotland, Brexit, Scottish Independence

A new report published today by the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen) and whatscotlandthinks.org reveals how the pursuit of Brexit is undermining public support in Scotland for staying in the UK.

It reveals that all of the growth in support for independence that was in evidence prior to the coronavirus pandemic occurred among those with positive views about EU membership.

Meanwhile, for the most part voters in Scotland are pessimistic about the consequences of Brexit but relatively optimistic about what independence would bring.

Co-authored by Professor Sir John Curtice and Ian Montagu, the report analyses data from the latest annual round of the Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey, which was conducted between August 2019 and March 2020, when the UK Parliament was in deadlock over Brexit and when Boris Johnson was elected under the promise to ‘Get Brexit Done’.

The latest survey, which has been tracking attitudes towards how Scotland should be governed ever since the advent of devolution in 1999, found a record 51% preferring Scotland to be independent, with 36% supporting devolution and 7% favouring no Scottish Parliament at all. Among voters as a whole, support for independence is five points higher than it was in 2016.

However, among those who would vote Remain in another EU referendum, support for independence has increased by 13 points, from 44% in 2016 to well over half (57%) in the latest survey. In contrast, among people who would vote Leave in another EU referendum, the proportion backing independence has fallen over the same period from 45% to 39%.

There is evidence of a sharp contrast between voters’ perceptions of Brexit and their feelings about independence.

18% believe that Britain’s economy will be better off in the wake of Brexit, whereas 43% feel that Scotland’s economy would be better under independence.

15% reckon that Brexit will result in Britain having more influence in the world, whereas over half (54%) believe that Scotland’s voice in the world would be stronger as an independent country.

Meanwhile, only a quarter of people in Scotland (25%) feel that being part of the EU undermines Britain’s distinctive identity, while 62% feel that an independent Scotland would have more pride in itself.

Professor Sir John Curtice, Senior Fellow at the Scottish Centre for Social Research and Senior Fellow at UK in a Changing Europe, said: “For a while after the EU referendum, it looked as though the lack of support for Brexit in Scotland was failing to move the dial on public opinion about independence. Over time, however, the pursuit of Brexit has weakened many people’s views of the merits of the Union. For a significant body of people in Scotland, independence inside the EU has now come to look more attractive than being part of a UK that is outside the EU. That may not have been either the wish or the intention of those who have advocated leaving the EU, but that does not mean that they can afford to ignore the apparent consequences.”

Is Brexit fuelling support for independence? Download the report from the What Scotland Thinks website.